Team Penske announced today that Fitzgerald Glider Kits, North America’s leading truck glider kit assembler, is building on its partnership with the team in NASCAR to become a primary sponsor for three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2017, including the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28 with driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya will be pursuing his third Indianapolis 500 victory after winning the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in 2015 while driving for Team Penske.
Fitzgerald will also serve as the primary sponsor on the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet driven by Montoya at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 13. The Fitzgerald livery is making its debut this weekend on the No. 2 Chevy driven by Josef Newgarden in the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. Today’s announcement coincides with the official unveiling of the No. 2 Fitzgerald Ford Fusion that Brad Keselowski will race in two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) events later this season – the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway on May 7 and the fall race at Richmond International Raceway on September 9.
“Team Penske is proud to work with Fitzgerald and to have the company build on its partnership with us in NASCAR to now expand to INDYCAR, it certainly shows their commitment to motorsports and to our organization," said Roger Penske. “This is a great opportunity for our team and Fitzgerald to team up for the greatest motorsport event in the world – the Indianapolis 500. With a two-time Indy 500 winner and proven champion in Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel, it definitely could be a special month of May at Indianapolis for Fitzgerald and our other partners."
Fitzgerald is also a primary sponsor for Team Penske’s NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) team for three events – including this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway – and has a partnership with Brad Keselowski Racing and the No. 19 Ford F-150 driven by Austin Cindric in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS).
|Penske Team announcement at Bristol|
“To be a part of the Indianapolis 500, and to do it with Team Penske, is going to be so exciting for our employees and customers," said Fitzgerald founder Tommy Fitzgerald Sr. “What makes it even more special is getting a chance to work with a driver like Juan who has such an incredible resume and track record at Indy. We are really excited to showcase the Fitzgerald brand to the fans of INDYCAR while still being a big part of Team Penske’s NASCAR operation. We’re looking forward to building on this momentum for the rest of the year."
Montoya is one of the most decorated drivers in motorsports history. In addition to his two Indianapolis 500 wins, Montoya has also earned victories in Formula 1, MENCS, NXS and sports car racing, including three triumphs in the prestigious Daytona 24 Hour race. Montoya captured the INDYCAR Championship in 1999 during his rookie season on the strength of seven wins. His 2015 victory at the Brickyard represented the record 16th win for Roger Penske’s team in the Indianapolis 500. Montoya’s first Indy 500 win came in 2000.
The INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is set for Saturday, May 13 at 3:30 pm ET. The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, May 28 beginning at 11 am ET. Both races will be seen live on ABC.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 22 FITZGERALD GLIDER KITS TEAM PENSKE CHEVORLET, met with media at Bristol Motor Speedway following announcement he will compete in 2017 Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske. Full transcript:
HOW ARE THINGS?
“Good. Really good to be honest. In a way, it was kind of weird, but it was really good. The opportunity with Penske came to do this and I thought it would be… for long-term would be the best thing for me and it’s good. I’m really happy. If you are going to go race you might as well come do it with best people you can and be able to get a relationship with the guys at Fitzgerald it’s amazing. They do an amazing job and hopefully we can make them really proud."
COULD YOU HAVE EVER HAVE IMAGINED THAT YOU WOULD RACE AGAINST FERNANDO ALONSO AGAIN?
“If you would have told me I was going to win a race ever against Alonso would be an endurance race or something not in Indy to be honest. I think it’s great. I think having Fernando is going to be a really good day for motorsports not only for IndyCar, but I think the attention overall for seeing Fernando and myself and everybody running Indy is going to be really big."
ON THE SPECTACLE OF INDY:
“Yeah it’s a lot of people out there. It is weird because you go out there and you get the announcement then you have a picture and then you’ve got like 15 minutes and then you walk to the car and you get in and you start. It is so many people around you. I think that’s a little bit hard for him from what he is used to. In Formula One (F1) and he has been doing that for a lot of years. We started the same year together when I was there in F1, so he’s been doing it for a long time. It’s just you have your own space and people really respect your space and here no, the fans, the sponsors, everybody are there and everybody wants a picture and you’ve got to please them."
WILL A FULL DAY OF TESTING BE ENOUGH FOR HIM TO GET ACCLIMATED TO THE CAR?
“I think the good thing with a full day of testing he will get a bit of an idea of what he needs. Just good to have a day with no pressure where you can build up and you understand what it takes. I think it will be fine. He is with a good team and they always run well there as well. It will be interesting."
IS IT POSSIBLE THIS RELATIONSHIP COULD EVER LEAD TO ANOTHER NASCAR APPEARANCE FOR YOU?
“I don’t know."
ARE YOU INTERESTED? IS IT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO?
“I don’t know. They tell me go here, I go there. I mean they say jump, I say how high? (laughs)"
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE MISSED ANYTHING THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS?
“I have been really busy. I’ve actually been really busy with the karting and everything. I went to Barber (Motorsports Park) to test and actually most of the morning I was quicker than all my teammates. I was like ‘I don’t know.’ It was good. Honestly, I run that Barber test is the best I’ve run ever at Barber. I don’t know. We changed the car quite a bit we have an engineer and we looked at a lot of stuff in the last few years. It’s really good because we are not focusing on 100 things. We are focusing on two races. Okay we talked about the races and we talked about the test and we said okay in the test I struggled here, I struggled there, this was a problem… he looked at everything and said oh the problem is this, the problem is that and we over looked and over looked and he said oh we are going to start here, here and there and it was good. It was easier to drive than ever there."
HAVE YOU BEEN SPENDING A LOT OF TIME WITH YOUR SON SEBASTIAN GETTING HIM UP TO SPEED AND KIND OF BEING HIS DRIVER COACH?
“Yeah the thing Sebastian just moved up to Junior class and he did all the winter tour being 11. He turned 12 last week. So, it’s tiny and we are going to Europe. There are five rounds of European championship we are doing four. The first one actually was this weekend, but I said he can’t miss so much school. So, we are going to do the summer two months June and July. He is doing the toughest level of karting. I am taking him there because he needs to go where they are going to kick your ass. The more they kick your ass the more you learn. At least that worked for me. If you are winning you are not learning. I think I just want to make him the best driver I can make him when he is young and see what happens."
HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN IN THE WORKS?
“For me with Penske? That was since last year."
SO, IT WAS JUST ACQUIRING A SPONSORSHIP DEAL THEN?
“Umm, I don’t know. They just tell me come we are announcing your sponsor. Penske is very quiet. I have been here three and a half years and you learn not to ask too many questions. Honestly, they said okay we are going to do this, we are going to do this and we are going to do that. I said okay who is the sponsor? We don’t know yet. And when they say I don’t know yet, they probably do know, but they don’t want to tell you yet, so you don’t open your mouth. They said okay, about two weeks ago they said we are announcing your sponsor you are going to Bristol. Okay, I’m going to Bristol."
DO YOU MISS STOCK CAR RACING?
“Stock car racing was fun, but I don’t need the every week thing. I don’t miss it at all. If you have kids and a family I mean honestly, no need."
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT COMING BACK TO DRIVE THE DAYTONA 500 IN FEBRUARY IF YOU GOT THE CHANCE?
“I think it would be fun to do it, but never really pushed for it or anything, so no."
DO YOU THINK WE COULD SEE A LITTLE OF THAT WITH ALONSO’S INTEREST?
“I think it would be nice for motorsports to do a little more of that because it’s just going to create a little more interest overall. It is something that it would be nice to see all motorsports to be able to see top drivers jump from one to the other just for one race. I was lucky enough to be in all the top series in the world and being able to win in all of them and everything. I’ve been very blessed in that point of view. You guys think about that. For me, tell me we are going here or we are going with Fitzgerald we are going to run the Indy 500. Tommy (Fitzgerald) told me that if I win he was going to give me one of his Hellcats. Honestly, I went yesterday, they picked me up and I went there yesterday to see their facilities and he picked me up at the airport in a Hellcat, 700 horsepower car. Okay I can deal with that."
HAVE YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO INDYCAR THIS SEASON?
“My engineer (Raul Prados) is going to every race. He used to be (Takuma) Sato’s engineer. And he is going to be my engineer. We text…I’ll show you. This morning. His morning text to me is “21 days". Yesterday it was “22 days to go". Every day. He is more intense. He sees this as such a huge opportunity to win Indy. For me is exciting. I’m not thinking about points. I’m not thinking about anything. I know I have a good shot of winning. I feel really good. It should be fun."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RUN THE DAYTONA 500 AGAIN?
“If Roger (Penske) came to me and said we have another car, would I like to run Daytona 500, I would probably say yes. But it needs to be done with a proper team. You know what I mean. If it is a proper team, it would be exciting."
IF LEWIS HAMILTON WANTS TO RUN THE DAYTONA 500, THEY WON’T LET HIM DRIVE JUNK:
“No, but you still have got to find the right combination and the right people. People is the big thing. Who you work with. How good of a car they are going to give you. Fernando (Alonso) has a good thing going. The test is going to help him get up to speed. I’m sure McLaren is going to get involved and look at all the data. They are going to do it properly."
DO YOU WORRY THAT THEM GIVING ALONSO A SPECIAL TEST GIVES HIM A HEAD START?
“I don’t mind. It is good for the sport."
WHAT IS GOING TO BE HIS BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
“The biggest challenge is going to be first he has never done a race that is that long, and the traffic. He is going to have to learn and understand the traffic. I think if he is patient enough through the week and builds to it, I think he will be fine. He is a really good driver. He has really good teammates. People have run at Indy before and run well. There is no reason why he shouldn’t run well."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO ADJUST TO BEING ON A CLOSED CIRCUIT WITH WALLS? DOES THAT MATTER?
“Indy is not as bad. It is a place that by yourself in race trim it is pretty damn simple. You go for example to a small oval, that is a different story. I remember my first time back in an Indy car when we went to Phoenix, that scared the hell out of me honestly. It took me all day to run wide open for one lap. I could run three and four (turns) easy. One and two (turns) it took me all day. I think that is going to be a little thing there. He (Alonso) will starting going wide open in turn four first, then turn two. Then turn three and finally turn one. Turn one is the hardest. It seems like it is the tightest corner."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FIRST TIME IN A STOCK CAR HERE AT BRISTOL?
“It was good. I love this place. Because for me, the biggest problem I had with a stock car it had no grip. Here with the banking made up a lot of grip. I always ran really well here. This was a fun place for me.
BECAUSE YOU AREN’T RUNNING FOR POINTS, DO YOU THINK YOU WILL GET MORE TUNING TO THE ENGINE?
“I’m hoping they do. I don’t know how it works, but I know they have the knock levels and things they have to look after the engine, but if you are honestly in my position, the engine isn’t going anywhere afterwards, so might as well go for broke. I’m in. That’s what you are there for. “
DON’T YOU USUALLY GO FOR BROKE? ISN’T THAT YOUR MO? (LAUGHS) “Yes. You have to, you know what I mean. You either do it or you don’t. That is what I think is really good for me. With the years, you learn to put yourself in good positions, and you learn when it is worth taking the chance and when it is not. You learn to understand what it takes. You aren’t always going to get it right! But 90% of the time you will."